✍ How important are HR certifications (HRCI + SHRM) and how to decide which one to get?!

Context: Start-up, <20 people, currently fundraising for Series A. I’m an experienced admin professional, now doing mostly everything HR – and I’m the only one in the company doing HR. I have a lot of work experience that I sort of know what the right answer is based on judgement and from being an employee (both a satisfied & unsatisfied one), but feel like I need the “right” answer.

Alex Clermont, Practice Manager at TDC:

I have found them helpful for finding jobs and sort of convincing other people you know what you’re talking about. They also can be helpful in terms of getting updates on federal law changes or emerging tools/topics of focus, but that’s on a high level. Taking the tests themselves is a good way to check your base level gut and figure out what areas you should focus on developing. I think there is value in all of that, particularly if you can get your company to pay for it.

However what you’re talking about here, with sort of day-to-day resources? Not so much. There are so many factors that go into this kind of thing – company culture, geographic factors, industry factors, etc. Something as high level as a certification isn’t going to help much. You’ll want to talk to real people who can help you work through nuance – this group, for instance.

Kelli Walton, Senior People Operations Manager at Particle Health:

Great question! I actually found myself in a very similar situation years ago when I started my HR journey so I know how you feel! While this is a personal choice, and I strongly feel there is no “right” answer when it comes to getting a certification, there are a couple of reasons why you might feel it’s valuable to pursue one:

  1. To expand and solidify your core HR knowledge. This is ultimately why I chose to get my SHRM-CP certification. I came from a background like yours – administration and account and project management – and had good instincts but didn’t have the basic “textbook” knowledge. Going through the process to study for, and ultimately pass, the HR certification exam allowed me to fill in gaps in my knowledge that I hadn’t been exposed to, and provided me with theories, case studies, data, and best practices for things I was already doing naturally. I found this to be incredibly helpful in boosting my confidence. 
  2. To open up additional job opportunities. Some companies and hiring managers out there do want to see that certification listed in your resume. I’ve gotten jobs specifically because of my certification, regardless of whether or not I felt it to be valuable. If you have the time and funds it takes to pursue a certification, it doesn’t hurt to have from a resume-building standpoint.
  3. To make professional connections. One benefit of pursuing my certification that I didn’t originally anticipate is the amazing professional connections it would provide. I signed up for a preparation class before the exam, and ended up meeting a handful of great colleagues in my city that I’m still connected with today. I also have been able to pursue volunteer and SME opportunities through SHRM that I wouldn’t have had the chance to do prior to becoming certified.

With that all being said, I’m glad I did it, and I found that it was one of the best decisions I made early in my career. However, it’s not for everyone, and depends on what you want to get out of it.

Here are some additional call-outs about pursuing a certification to consider:

  1. The “black and white answer” in a textbook is not always the best answer for your scenario. Learning those theories and models is good information, but doesn’t replace real-world experience and knowledge.
  2. To that point, some of these organizations providing the certifications may have more traditional (sometimes outdated) guidelines or answers that don’t match the realities of every business and situation. In some cases, you’ll find yourself memorizing an answer for the exam, but never using it in real life.
  3. It does require studying, and costs money to get the materials you need and to take the exam itself. I’d highly recommend a prep course (see my note above re: professional connections), which is another expense. Like everything, it’s a good idea to look at the ROI, and ask your company if they can pay a portion or all of the expense as professional development.

When it comes to deciding which one to get, there are pros and cons to both of them! I’d do some research on the contents of each to see if one resonates more for you personally, and then consider the logistical factors like timing and cost.

✍ How to best support remaining employees post-RIF, especially when there is still limited budget?

Context: We will be having a RIF in mid-December. It’s horrible. I know. This will be 3rd reduction in 18 months. This one is coming with more changes moving forward (possible impact to benefits and perks), restructure, taking office fully remote. Some good and some bad. The sticky part is that some remaining employees will also be getting paid out their 2023 bonus that had been suspended. I foresee from my teams that there is already survivors guilt in a RIF, but one right before the holidays and where you also are getting incentive pay, I feel like folks are going to be even more sensitive. I know I am and I’m a leader.

Anessa Fike, CEO & Founder of Fike+Co and Fractional CPO:

The biggest piece that people want after a RIF is to 1) feel safe that their jobs won’t be next; 2) have space to grieve and also feel their emotions; 3) they have someone that cares about them internally that is warm and caring.

Jessie Fields, Director of Talent Development and DEI at C2FO:


Get insights, learnings, and advice on how to build companies and cultures that people actually love.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No spam. Unsubscribe any time.

A really helpful framework I’ve used when communicating through tough changes is to:

  1. Acknowledge realities – help employees feel heard and understood
  2. Provide context – help give more details and clarity by leaning into the “why”
  3. Give a reason for hope – help people see and believe in the company’s future

All three of these messages are best received when they live together. Without acknowledging realities, employees won’t feel heard and won’t connect to the “why.” Without context, employees won’t feel the future is feasible and trust you can get there. And without hope for the future, employees remain stuck.

Of course none of this will matter if you don’t meet the team’s basic needs first (like all of the things Anessa mentioned above).

There’s never an easy time to navigate a RIF, but pre-holidays is especially tricky. Kudos to you for beginning to think through the impacts now.

Kat Campbell, Founder of HowardHelen:

+1 to Anessa and Jessie. This is very hard- please make sure to give yourself grace and know that survivors’ guilt is very real.

If you don’t have an unlimited vacation policy, you can offer additional paid time off above the annual allocation to be used throughout the year. Even a few extra days can help employees get a sense of normalcy after an event like a RIF.

And wherever you can provide transparency, do it. If certain business goals need to be met to make sure no more reductions occur, say that. If no more jobs will be cut, say that.

And finally, encourage current employees to help the terminated colleagues find a new position through networking, LinkedIn, resume reviews, etc. That will help the survivors feel like they are contributing to a more positive future for those impacted.

Cassandra Babilya, Head of EEx Strategy at Amazon:

I’ll add: work with your business leaders to adjust expectations of what these remaining employees can produce/deliver. Expecting a percentage of your former total workforce to carry your previous goals/commitments is a recipe for burnout and further attrition.

Hebba Youssef
Hebba Youssef

Get insights, learnings, and advice on how to build companies and cultures that people actually love.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No spam. Unsubscribe any time.